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8/8/03 - BRINGING PEACE TO LIBERIA - 2003-08-08

Nigerian troops have arrived in Monrovia, Liberia. They are the first element of a multi-national force led by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. U.S. military officers are working with them to restore security so that humanitarian assistance can be provided to the Liberian people.

Since 1989, civil war has taken the lives of more than two-hundred thousand Liberian men, women, and children. A million others were made homeless. Businesses and industry were destroyed or heavily damaged. Foreign investment has stopped. An estimated one million Liberians are in urgent need of food and other essentials. Liberians live in fear of violence from Charles Taylor's government forces and from armed insurgents.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says the shooting must stop:

"Certainly, the humanitarian situation is very dire and continues to deteriorate. So, it is very important for all the parties to cooperate to live up to the ceasefire, to make sure that the ceasefire is maintained, and allow for a peaceful transfer of power."

Essential to Liberia's recovery is an end to the corrupt and repressive rule of Charles Taylor. Since coming to power in 1997, he and his cronies have looted and terrorized the country. State Department spokesman Reeker says there is only one way he can help the Liberian people:

"He needs to leave, as he said he is going to. He needs to step down and leave the country. He said he is going to do that on August 11th, and that's what we expect to happen."

Humanitarian aid is beginning to arrive in Liberia. Much more is coming. But it will not reach those in need until the fighting is stopped.